News: Boeing engine blowouts investigated as older 777s are suspended.
(Reuters) – Showers of engine parts over residential areas on both sides of the Atlantic have drawn regulatory attention and resulted in some older Boeing aircraft being decommissioned.
Saturday’s incidents involving a United Airlines 777 in Denver and a longtail Aviation 747 freighter in the Netherlands have put engine maker Pratt & Whitney in the spotlight, although there is no evidence that they are related.
Raytheon’s Pratt & Whitney said it is coordinating with regulators to review the inspection logs. The inspections ordered after previous incidents are expected to increase.
After the Colorado engine failure, when United Flight 328 dropped debris on a suburb in northern Denver before landing safely, Boeing recommended that the 777 be suspended from the same variant of the PW4000 turbine. Japan meanwhile imposed a mandatory suspension.
The European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) weighed in on Monday and, in view of both events, requested more information about the Pratt engines. A woman was slightly injured in the Dutch incident in which turbine blades were scattered in the town of Meerssen. One was found embedded in a car roof.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it will soon issue an airworthiness policy for emergencies.
Both incidents involve the same type of PW4000 engine that powers a relatively small number of older aircraft, some of which stem from the COVID-19 pandemic, which limits the likely impact.
However, they are giving Boeing a new headache as it recovers from the much more serious 737-MAX crisis that resulted in the landing of its flagship narrowbody jet after two fatal crashes.
“This is certainly an undesirable situation for Boeing and Pratt, but aircraft and engine problems arise from time to time,” said Greg Waldron, managing editor for the industry publication Flight Global.
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“The PW4000-powered 777-200 is slowly being phased out,” he said, adding that the pandemic-induced slump means airlines that are forced to suspend it “should be able to deal with network gaps 787 or other 777 to fill with general “electric motors.
Analysts at broker Cowen forecast limited impact on Boeing’s share price, which fell 1.3% on Monday.
The affected 777-200 and 777-300 are older, less fuel-efficient models that are still being flown by five airlines: United, Japan Airlines, ANA Holdings Inc., Asiana Airlines Inc. and Korean Air leak.
Boeing said 69 of the 777s operating with PW4000 worldwide were recently in service and another 59 were in storage. Pratt & Whitney engines power less than 10% of the supplied 777 fleet of more than 1,600 aircraft.
United suspended 24 of their 777s in anticipation of Boeing’s advice after the protective outer casing of the right engine was dropped near homes on Saturday.
The vast majority of the 777s in service today are powered by engines manufactured by General Electric, the only supplier of newer models.
In the Dutch case, air traffic control informed the longtail pilot of an engine fire after taking off from Maastricht to New York and diverting it to Liège, Belgium.
The Dutch security agency said Monday it was investigating the incident.
The investigation of the 26-year-old United jet revealed that the damage was mostly limited to the correct engine, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said. The inlet and case peeled off and two fan blades were broken, others showed damage.
The FAA said early results indicated that the “inspection interval for the hollow fan blades, which applies only to this engine model, which is used exclusively on Boeing 777 aircraft, should be extended.”
The cause of the engine fire in the Netherlands remained unclear.
PW4000 engine failures during the flight were previously investigated by the authorities.
Another United 777 of the same vintage suffered an engine failure in February 2018 when a hood fell off about 30 minutes before the aircraft safely landed. Behind the incident was a full-length break in the fan blade, the NTSB found.
After a malfunction forced a JAL 777 in Tokyo to abruptly return to Naha Airport in December, Japan’s Transport Safety Board reported that it had found two damaged fan blades, one with a metal fatigue crack. The investigation is still ongoing.
JAL, which operates 13 of the aircraft, announced that it would retire by March 2022.
The smaller PW4000 engines on some Boeing 747s and 767s and some Airbus A330s do not have the hollow titanium fan blade that is suspected of being involved in the United 777 incident.
Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney, David Shepardson in Washington and Laurence Frost in Paris; additional reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu and Maki Shiraki in Tokyo, Joyce Lee in Seoul, Tim Hepher in Paris and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Sam Holmes, Christopher Cushing, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and David Goodman
Original Source © Reuters